A KINGSLEY man with Parkinson’s disease has seen his life transformed by a golden retriever dog.
When Alan Edbrooke’s body began to shake uncontrollably, he knew exactly what was happening.
As his father and grandfather had both had Parkinson’s disease, he recognised the symptoms immediately.
Mr Edbrooke gave up his job as an IT manager in 2004 as the condition was causing agoraphobia and he was having panic attacks when he was away from home.
Within a few years he was rarely going outdoors.
And he was living with debilitating back pain caused by his muscles tensing up to deal with the regular shaking for which Parkinson’s is known.
But life got a little easier when Mr Edbrooke met Hamlin. The affectionate golden retriever has been trained by charity Canine Partners which provides assistance dogs that transform the lives of disabled people.
Now the two are inseparable and Mr Edbrooke looks forward to going out with his four-legged best friend.
And as well as boosting Mr Edbrooke’s confidence and self-esteem, Hamlin opens doors, lends a paw with the washing machine and helps his owner put on and take off his shoes when he is unable to bend down due to his back pain.
He also picks up anything Mr Edbrooke drops.
The 48 year old, who lives in Kingsley with his wife Janine, said: “It was love at first sight.
“It’s incredible the difference he’s made. You can’t measure it. I get up in the morning and I look forward to seeing Hamlin, whereas I used to just stay in bed.
“Hamlin goes everywhere with me – even to the gym. He comes to pilates which is excellent for my back and everyone loves him in there.
“As soon as I move in the morning, Hamlin’s there ready to help.
“One of the most important things Hamlin does is he gives me a constant point of reference by my side while we’re walking.
“When you have Parkinson’s, stumbling and falling can be reduced with visual cues, like having a dog walking gently by your side. He keeps me going straight when we’re out and about.
“Hamlin has given me the confidence to go back into the outside world. He has given me a future. He has made me happier being me.”
Mr Edbrooke and Hamlin are one of Canine Partners’ 383 partnerships at the moment.
Each partnership costs the charity £20,000 to create. But the charity receives no Government funding so relies on sponsorship and public donations to continue training its dogs.
It also hosts a calendar of events every year, including its upcoming Pedal for Paws cycling challenge, which last year saw more than 100 cyclists pedal across the South Downs National Park, raising more than £4,000.